Sunday, August 7, 2011

I coulda been a contender...

I'm back from yesterday's the handicapping contest at the Nassau Race Palace OTB on Long Island. It only took me two trains and a cab to get there, but what the hey, it'll be my only live contest this month.

Unfortunately my results didn't match up to the adventure of the day, as I failed to finish in the top 10 of the ~90 or so players as was needed to win any prize money. (Congratulations to Paul Schurman or Shurman and Robert Rodriguez, who finished 1-2 according to this half-baked contest recap I found.) I probably finished about 40th, which means nothing really, as in this contest 11th place got you the same -$300 net loss as 90th place. And whereas in many contests I walk away with a c'est la vie, in this one I had a fairly significant coulda woulda shoulda.

Here's what I did with my 10 notional $2WP bets:

1. 1Sar, Indian Tale: I liked this horse a bunch at 6-1 in a shortish field, and he came flying late but ran out of real estate and fell a head short. a $15 winner would have been a sweet start, instead I got just $7.60 to place; better than losing of course, but still a pisser.
2. 3Mth, Spangled Star: Thought a speed duel could set him up, trainer Patricia Farro had won the previous race, and 6-1 was a decent price. They did run fast early but that didn't help Spangled Star, who never ran a jump.
3. 4Mth, Brown Eyed Nance: This was a real speculative play based pretty much entirely on trainer DiMauro having won a race the previous day. She broke decently and was forwardly placed in this turf sprint, but she faded like you would expect for a 32-1 shot. Woulda been a nice capper, but I can't say I was surprised by the outcome.
4. 5Sar, Evan's Rocket: I wasn't cuckoo crazy about this horse, but coming off the turf made for some chaos on the oddsboard in my opinion, including an awful 2-1 favorite. Evan's Rocket scored at 9-1, which got me back $32.40 and boosted my bankroll to an even $40, good for a tie for 11th place.
5. 6Sar, Washington's Rules: Thought this closer had a decent shot at 8-1, especially as the McPeek/Cruz connection had shown some life in previous days. But the 6-5 chalk ran like a 6-5 chalk and won by the length of the stretch, with W's R checking in a non-threatening third.
6. 7Sar, Oatka Idas Rose: killer. Going into the race I was interested in Funky Munky Mama, as low-profile trainer Gary Gullo had won on Saturday. Then I see she clicks from 15-1 ML to about 8-1 early in the betting, before drifting back to almost 14-1. But despite the double angle, I talk myself into believing there's too much early speed in the race, which will screw Funky Munky and set it up for a closer, like Oatka. What happens? Funky Munky goes wire-to-wire and pays 29.80 and 12.20; Oatka checks in third. Ouch, man -- this one hurt.
7. 8Sar, Callmenancy: McPeek/Cruz screw me again as first-time starter runs last at 20-1.
I think Yogi Berra was at one of these fixed-number-of-bet contests when he said "it gets late early around here," as my remaining bullets were few and it was starting to feel late.
8. 9Sar, Wild News: this was a shitty bet, in retrospect. I thought C.C. Lopez could take advantage of the track bias and speed-pop the compact field at 5-1; she vied for the lead for about a whole 100 yards before backing up.
9. 10Mth, My Sweet Nenana: Actually ran a decent 3rd at 18-1 but never really threatened.
10. 10Sar, Bank Merger: ran 7th of 8 but whatever, I was done.

So that was that. If I had stayed with Funky Munky Mama on my 6th bet, I "woulda" been in first place with $82, and "woulda" finished no worse than 7th place. (Top 10 was:


  1. Paul Shurman, $115.80
  2. Robert Ramirez, $115.40
  3. Chris Olsson, $110.00
  4. Matthew Levy, $103.90
  5. Sydney Cohn, $92.70
  6. Ron Rippey, $89.60
  7. Robert Felt, $81.00
  8. Leonard Ficcarelle, $80.40
  9. Mitch Schuman, $77.40
  10. Ken Seeman, $75.80)
I may have done a couple places better than 7th, as I think I "woulda" played a bit more conservatively in the later races. But I can't say I "woulda" had a chance at the top 3, because I didn't like any of the late-day prices. But that's all academic.

The unanswered question is, should I have played Funky Munky Mama? There's no clear black and white here -- it's gray -- and I'm thinking the answer is somewhere between maybe and probably. I do like my angles, but I also like to look at the form in a more traditional manner as well to support (or in this case, argue against) the angles. In Wall Street parlance, it's kind of like an automated trading strategy with a discretionary human override -- yesterday, that override just happened to screw me.

I still think I'll have better long-term results with the discretionary human override rather than without, but at the same time I have a feeling that the next time I see a double angle at 14-1, I'll be telling myself where to put the override.